Biotechnology as a Driving Force for Regional Development: Opportunities and Challenges for the Brazilian Amazon

Biotechnology as a Driving Force for Regional Development: Opportunities and Challenges for the Brazilian Amazon

Maurício Aguiar Serra (Institute of Economics, UNICAMP, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil), José Raimundo Vergolino (The College of Boa Viagem, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil) and Artur da Silva Coelho (Ambiens Sociedade Cooperativa, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/jsesd.2013070103
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The main objective of this article is to analyse the development of Amazon region through biotechnological activities. Amazonia, by virtue of its tremendous biodiversity, has excellent possibilities of meeting a growing market for biotechnological products, being that the development of this sector demands not only abundant natural resources, but also the existence of an institutional environment that is able to integrate productive activities with research on science and technology. The promotion of regional development, thus, depends on the configuration, which, according to Boisier, is composed by six elements, present in all regions that interact with each other. The article concludes that Amazonian development is directly related to the participation capability of many segments of society for the development of biotechnological activities, in which the State should play an important role in drawing up policies towards the biotechnological sector and, at the same time, in setting up participation channels for the relationship among actors.
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1. Introduction

It is generally accepted that since the end of the last century the world has been going through a period of important technological changes, where the biggest perspectives for economic growth for the 21st Century are found in very different sectors from those that traditionally drove it. Biotechnology has been systematically pointed out as one of those areas with the best perspectives for growth. The convergence of two factors is seen as essential for developing biotechnology: the existence of abundant natural resources and the existence of an institutional environment that is able to integrate productive activities with those of research, given the intensive nature of science and technology that characterize this sector.

Due to its incomparable biodiversity, the Amazon, specifically the Brazilian Amazon, has excellent perspectives for taking advantage of biotechnology’s potential. In turn, the realization of these perspectives would permit the growth of a region whose socioeconomic indicators are not the best. Furthermore, it would enable finding a direction for regional development, after the failure of several attempts made over the past few decades. The common thread among these attempts was the fact they basically intended to transplant economic alternatives that worked in other regions, but that never clicked in the Amazon, while also creating highly negative, and often irreversible, environmental impacts.

This study aims to analyze biotechnology’s perspectives as a driving force for development of the Brazilian Amazon. In this sense, it is structured as follows. In the first section, the discussion focuses on regional development, with the main proposal being the integration of Sérgio Boisier's regional development approach, where the focal point is the region's capacity to internalize the economic growth process, with “network economies”, which prioritize research in cooperative bases as the main path for promoting biotechnology. The next section presents some of the Amazon’s socioeconomic characteristics, mainly resulting from the various developmentalist experiences implemented in the region starting the mid-1960s. In the third section, a study of the potential of some biotechnological activities is conducted aimed at showing the importance these activities currently have as well as their potential for leveraging regional development. The fourth section analyzes the proper institutional environment for this type of activity in the Amazon and the last section lays out the final remarks.

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